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May 28, 2017

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Fan Li: the man who laid a honey-trap with Xi Shi

THERE are an estimated 4.6 million people surnamed Fan in China, ranking the 51st in terms of population. Fans account for about 0.73 percent of the population.

There are generally three major sources of Fan as a family name. One is derived from the family of Qi, descendants of the Emperor Yao in the primitive age.

A branch of the family was granted the state of Fan, and thus changed their surname.

A second big branch of Fan originated from around Mount Fan in the Chu Kingdom during the Spring and Autumn Periods (770-476 BC).

There is also a big population of Fan in the minorities of southwest China.

The Fan families mainly originated from Shanxi, Henan and Hubei provinces before the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC), and gradually expanded to almost all regions in China by the Song Dynasty (AD 960-1279). In Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), the number of Fans in north China reduced fell sharply, as did many other families, due to frequent wars.

Many Fans moved southeast. Today, about 33 percent of the population surnamed Fan lives in Henan, Anhui and Shandong provinces.

The most well-known celebrities surnamed Fan in Chinese history include Fan Li, a strategist in the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 BC) and Fan Zhongyan, a politician and literateur in the Song Dynasty.

The romance between Fan Li and the legendary beauty Xi Shi is widely cited in novels and operas over the years.

Xi Shi was a beautiful silk-washing girl that Fan found for a honey-trap to catch the King of the Wu Kingdom.

Although falling in love with the girl at first sight, Fan kept to his plan until the Yue Kingdom successfully defeated Wu and recovered the lost territory.

When he was granted a high position in the court as a reward, Fan resigned and fled. He left a letter to another strategist, Wen Zhong, suggesting he leave as well since the King of Yue would not be a generous man.

In the letter, he wrote that the hunting dog would be cooked when all the crafty rabbits were dead; the excellent bow would be hid when all the flying birds were gone, as a metaphor for the relationship of strategists to the King. Wen didn’t take his advice.

Later, the king granted Wen a sword and hinted he commit suicide.


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